Monday, 4 July 2016

Was Buhari Right To Have Dissolved OAU Governing Council?

President Muhammadu Buhari
Barely a week after the newly appointed 11th Vice Chancellor of Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof. Ayobami Salami gave his inaugural speech; it is surprising that he was suspended alongside with the varsity’s Governing Council that sat over his appointment process. While some feel President Buhari’s decision to act this way contravenes the autonomy granted to the universities, many feel the president is in order.

Last Thursday, the federal government announced the dissolution of the Governing Council of the citadel of learning as well as the suspension of the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor pending the determination of subsisting court case. Many have reacted to this development and described it as ‘a thunder strike’.

Following the FG’s pronouncement, members of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU) and that of Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian University (NASU) have openly thrown their weight behind the decision. Members of the Unions have been seen rejoicing ever since Professor Ayobami Salami reign as the VC was short lived. While the reactions of the NASU and SSANU members may not be too surprising, considering their earlier positions on Salami’s appointment, many students are of the opinion that the Unions are only doing this because they believe the new VC will not look into their grievances, a similar experience with the former Vice Chancellor – a position which some others consider to be untrue and watery, after all, one may not be able to pass a comment on a meal unless one tastes it.

In the mean time, there has been series of comments questioning and challenging the decision of the Federal Government from the aspect of legality.

A particular lecturer opined that, Nigeria as a democratic state recognises the supremacy of the law and as such the constitution is expected to be binding over both the rulers and the ruled. In his position, he stressed further by citing sections of the 1999 federal constitution of Nigeria; “this constitution is Supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria”. He also cited that “If any other law is inconsistent with the provision of the constitution, this constitution shall prevail amid that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void”. “Adducing from the above cited provisions of the constitution, the federal government should try and walk in consonance with the constitution.” he said.

In an article published in one of the national dailies by a group of people who named themselves ‘Concerned Obafemi Awolowo community members’, they objected that the order for the dissolution of OAU governing council grossly contravened the position of the University (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISION) (AMENDMENT) ACT 2003, otherwise called Universities Autonomy ACT NO 1, 2007 which clearly spell out functions, responsibilities and powers of the varied constituent organs amid functionaries of the Federal universities in the country.

Section 2A of the University (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) (AMENDMENT) ACT 2003, states;

The council so constituted shall have a tenure of four years from the of its inauguration provided that where a council is found to be incompetent and corrupt it shall be dissolved by the visitor and a new Council shall be immediately constituted...”.

In the light of this, they positioned that the federal government should not have allowed itself to be illegally guided before taking such a speedy decision 'per incuriam' that is out of ignorance.

A particular student who would not want his name to be mentioned exclaimed out of curiosity, “was it not the same federal government that approved Prof. Salami's appointment? At least, he could not have assumed office without receiving a letter of appointment from the federal Government”.

The federal government should not have allowed itself to be misguided at the expense of its commitment to the rule of law and principles of fairness, justice and integrity, some other people have told OAU Peeps News Agency.

The (MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS) (AMENDMENT) ACT 2003 provides for the only instance where the governing council can be dissolved; “...where a council is found to be incompetent and corrupt it shall be issolved by the visitor and a new council shall be immediately constituted...”. The question now is that, has Buhari found the Council to be incompetent and/or corrupt?

It should be noted that the dissolved council headed by Prof Rowland Ndoma was constituted in 2013 and its tenure has not expired.

Speaking to OAU Peeps News Agency, a 400 level student of the institution said “maybe the reason why the Federal Government disbanded the governing council is because of the row between the unions and the Council towards the emergence of Prof. Salami as the Vice Chancellor”

Looking at various suggestions, controversies and debates that have heralded the decision of the Federal Government, the Federal government is yet to state why it dissolved the Council and some loyalists to the new Vice Chancellor feel it will be wise for President Buhari to revisit and reconsider the decision it has taken.

Students of OAU have remained at home since the 2014/2015 academic session ended in March this year.
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